I have been now in Bielefeld, Germany for 4,5 months and the exchange semester is about to come to an end. The time has flown by very fast and the experience has been very rewarding in many ways.
About the city of Bielefeld.
Bielefeld is a city about the same size as Tampere, but still for Germany it cannot be counted as a big one. It has everything you need (even a tram/metro!) and (center) area is kind of cute, but is definitely not a very interesting city. There is a castle, which I think is the biggest sight in the whole city. Also, Dr. Ötker comes from Bielefeld and the factory is located also here. Luckily, with the semester ticket you will get, you can travel limitless within the state of North Rhine-Westphalia which includes also cities like Düsseldorf and Köln. That’s a lot of land to explore!
Studying in FH Bielefeld
The semester started with an orientation weeks which included practical information about how everything works, at the university and with student dormitories (since most exchange-students lived in one). The main part of the orientation was still the German lessons which took place everyday for 5 hours (that’s first 3 ECTS right there!). For some reason there was a week break between the actual courses started, so I did an extra intensive course about Blockchain during this time of which I earned the most easiest 6 ECTS of my life.
For this reason I needed to take only 4 courses. I took German, Spanish, International Taxation and Consumer marketing. Each of these were 3h a week, some in 2 parts, so hour-wise it wasn’t much of sitting at the university. The lectures of non-language courses do not differ too much from what they are in TAMK. The biggest differences I see in the language courses, I cannot really explain but the style really doesn’t suit for me and I feel I have learned only very little from the classes and do the work at home. Also, the Spanish class in in German, so that makes the whole thing even more confusing.
All in all, the studying has been a bit easier here.
What was a bit unexpected, things aren’t as organized in Germany as in Finland. The information flow is very bad, the local Tabula etc. systems are ancient and a a lot of things are made unnecessarily difficult and formal + a lot of times I got the feeling no one knows anythings. Patience is what you need…
Living and free time
Living in Germany is cheaper than in Finland, especially in a city like Bielefeld where the rent prices are also super low! My Erasmus experience differs a lot compared to many other exchange students who came to Bielefeld and a big reason is that I was lucky to get a room from a private shared apartment instead of the student dormitories. I have been living with two German girls together and I couldn’t be happier about that. With them I have experienced and done so much more that I would have without. For example I have gone to the Köln Karnival, had home made lunch at “Grandma’s” and even found myself from a Finnish SitSit style birthday party which was organized by Germans who had been to exchange in Finland! Also, I have been travelling quite a lot, since the prices are just so low not matter if you fly or take a bus.
If something, I would recommend to try to find a flat with the locals (WG-gesucht.de 😉 ). That gives so much more if you actually want to see the culture, make connections and live more cozy life than in dormitories (yes I have seen and heard about these). I can say that I have really been “exposed” to Germans and German culture and at the same time me German has improved massively! Surely there has been some Erasmus events but I didn’t take part in most. From other Erasmus students I have found a few very good friends but the most close friends are my roommates and they are one of the only things I will miss here!